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Old September 7th, 2017, 11:42 AM   #1

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Harry Turtledove


Do you think Harry Turtledove's alternate history scenarios could happen, or are they over-simplified and revolve too much around America and Americans?

Last edited by RidiculousName; September 7th, 2017 at 01:15 PM.
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Old September 7th, 2017, 03:29 PM   #2
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They were certainly realistic and I think it's as close to perfect as an 80 year jump from the Civil War to the mid 20th century could possibly get. Been waiting a long time to discuss this with someone interested so I'm going to list probable and unlikely's. Also it was a sideshow but if you really really look for it Turtledove does give us enough to get a picture of what's happening in Europe. I'm referring to Southern Victory which I think is his flagship/most popular series.

Probable/I think they would happen almost to the word.
1)UK and France recognize Confederacy, USA forced to let the CSA go after Sharpsburg victory which was pretty probable for the CSA if those orders don't get dropped seeing the last few battles Lee had had with the Potomac army and the difference McCllelan having those orders made(the man moved his army to cut off Lee faster than he'd done anything in his sad slow life). UK and France eventually pressure CSA to release their slaves(not so sure about the Second Mexican War). USA has to look for an ally to counteract this change of the balance of power and Germany's really the only option that makes sense. This system of alliances makes CSA victory over the superior USA seem pretty logical.

2)establishment of the Mexican Empire by the French. With the USA no longer bordering Mexico the French would probably get away with this. If not for slavery, supporting the CSA made a ton of sense strategically for the French as it both cut off the USA from being able to do anything to stop them in Mexico while giving them an ally who would "owe" them. Think this or something very similar would have occurred in our timeline.
3)In the event of wars with the British and CSA the US would have to fight two front wars and the strategic nature of these conflicts would be very similar to that in the novels. The nature of North America France/Mexico, UK/Canada and CSA v the lonely US(Quebec is a US ally eventually) is also pretty likely and I think Turtledove did a great job emphasizing this.

3)European WWI. European WWI seemed to have an outcome very similar to what I'd expect from a Germany, Austria v Russia,France, UK situation. Russia, France lose some land and/or pay reperations, Brits lose but aren't invaded because of the strategic situation in both WWI and WWII. Pretty likely Central Powers victory scenario and I'd say the same for WWII at least in this regard. WWII outcome with imperial Germany is a lot less set in stone IMO because at this point we've begun changing a lot of stuff but I think Germany/USA/Austria is beating UK/France/Japan/Russia in WWII if they get it done in WWI no questions asked there. Thing I was most surprised about honestly was how well the French were doing early against the Germans who by this point would have overwhelming population advantages.

4)Japan. Without the Without the US colonizing the Pacific, Japan while nominally a British ally/Entente power would basically be doing their own thing slowly accumulating power in Asia. With the US distracted by the CSA and only able to passively defend Hawaii(Sandwich islands) no one's really around to stop them. Without the US in the UK's corner they'd be no demand to stop the Japanese/UK alliance after WWI. Think Japan back stabbing the allies during WWII to take their territory because it's low hanging fruit and what else is there in the region to take? Japs bombing California was also realistic even though I got laughed at for saying it in another thread.

5)Death of the Republican Party and rise of Socialists. Think predicting what happens next is pretty tough and I think Lincoln founding the Socialists is near impossible but I do think a defeat in the Civil War would end the Republican Party and cause major political realignment in the smaller US. Turtledove did as good a job as he could here as the Democrats would survive/be the majority party for a while seeing the Republicans lost the war and another party would replace them. I do not think Lincoln would found the Socialist Party nor do I think the Socialists would rise that early. I think we'd get another abolitionist/pro war// party instead. I do think the Socialists would rise given the US's much more industrial dominated focus but it'd be later and like with the UK's Labour Party it would emerge as a third force and slowly take over the role of major party.

"History repeats itself/My issues with Turtledove
1)I think Turtledove was determined to make the CSA go down the same exact path as Germany and came off as more interested in making the Freedom Party's rise a carbon copy of the Nazi Party than in conducting a real scenario. There's Hitler Easter eggs EVERYWHERE(including happy promoted Hitler). Only things they changed they needed to change because they weren't in a Parliamentary system/different continent. Black racism in the USA is also largely due to the CSA's loss/blame and I honestly think long term racial conditions in the CSA could possibly be better long terms than they would be in the USA today(I mean possibly, I don't know, I'm saying it's possible) as there would be no reason to scapegoat AA's. At this point AA's were simply enslaved people who the CSA was justifying keeping enslaved for economic reasons, the hatred truly stems from defeat in the Civil War and with victories instead of defeats I do think things would get better for blacks quicker(not counting reconstruction) than they did under Jim Crow. UK and France would also be doing nudging in that direction and CSA would basically owe them the world at this point. At the very least, don't think there's a genocide. The genocide seemed shoe horned in to repeat the Holocaust, as did alot of things about WWII in Turtledove's books. Like we get it Featherston's Southern Hitler, we got the hints. Pittsburgh was a carbon copy of Stalingrad. Happy they changed some things up like his death but come on they had Valkyrie and Mein (not spelling it out) even shoe horned in there. The AU Hitler they shoved in also seemed like Turtledove was saying "you see there's Hitler!, we know something they don't lol!).
2)European WWI and the rise of European Fascism-They did the same to a lesser and more obscure sense in France and the UK. Turtledove seemed to take to the simplistic idea of "defeat in a major war equals fascist revolution hell bent on revenge unless you area monarchy in which case it doesn't". My logic with the path France took is it already had been angry and resentful at the Germans for decades while remaining a Republic. France after WWI would be in no position to take out their anger on the Germans due to the population gap. European WWII also seemed shoehorned in to fit a narrative of the Entente going down the same road as Germany did in our timeline no matter how much it flew in the face of logic. In our timeline France already had a huge population gap and was barely able to hold off a German invasion with a powerful Russian Empire at their side. So ask me this how in hell are they waltzing(I don't care if they had British help either) not only into the Lower Countries but into Germany proper almost capturing Hamburg? How is Russia doing as well as they are doing without Poland or Ukraine? With the borders Turtledove gave Germany, the Third Reich would have almost certainly taken out the USSR and a civil war torn Tsarist Russia is supposed to do as well as they did in the book.

Again the reason for this didn't seem to be historical logic so much as let's switch countries places. Germany had initial success against Soviet Union let's switch it. At least with France Turtledove had the sense not to have France conquer the Germans, but this was only because there's no way to alliance swap that part of the scenario as if Germany falls Entente in Europe wins the war and his whole scenario breaks apart at the seams.

Then there was Fascism rising in the UK. UK didn't lose anything in the war to the Germans. They also would have probably stolen all Germany's existing overseas territory which is ignored. So why does Fascism emerge in the UK? Seems questionable even though more plausible than the French scenario. Like are these people ever going to learn stop installing the Bourbons?
3)Some of his shoe horning was just odvious. Like a Dewey/Truman ticket? Really? We see what you did there.

Note-Harry Turtledove must REALLY REALLY hate Ann Coulter. Surprised she didn't sue. I hate her too of course but he went a bit too far IMO and a bit too clear with making her a character. Didn't even change the first name. maybe he's got a personal vendetta or something because it seemed weird he'd do that to just one individual and that's it(unless I missed some). Oh yeah Jimmy Carter but he would have been alive at the time and probably would be a very different person born into that world.

AU negatives/storytelling positives.
I also think the nuke thing was wonderful from a story perspective, terrible from an AU perspective because he made it so even when the outcome was pretty clear he made it so you actually could become convinced the CSA might just pull it off. He really did make that suspenseful. A weakness of many stories is once you reach teen hood you know it's going to end with either the good guy winning or it's a trajedy because there's just a few main overarching plotlines most stories take, it was obvious Featherston was outgunned but he still found ways to create dramas. Also like the multi character format because it allowed readers who hated certain stories and types of people to find stories and people they liked. I don't think there's a reader who would read all the different(dozen or so) Turtledove mini plots and not care/be intrigued about one or two of those sets of characters. By the later books your at a point where you care about these people independent of the story and realize for every story in Turtldove there's probably a few people who lived those stories to 90% accuracy in real life and it makes you pinch yourself.
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Old September 7th, 2017, 04:35 PM   #3

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Turtledove is certainly creative, and at times he can create a good alternate history that is believable.

The best of these, in my opinion, being "The Man with the Iron Heart," essentially, a "what if Heydrich survived the assassination attempt in Czechoslovakia?" Germany DID have ideas for a guerilla war after WW2 was lost, but in history, the actual steps to prepare for it were NEVER done as Hitler continually demanded "hold to the last" and thus left the "werewolves" short of leadership, bases, and equipment to really be a problem. But if Heydrich survived... Turtledove's story seemed to give him the ability to actually organize it, and Heydrich was the sort of character in history that if he did survive the war WOULD attempt to lead such a movement... Now, admittedly, much of the story is mirrored on the War in Iraq, just in post WW2 Europe, but one could draw similarities to any other guerilla insurgence in history, so in that the story was believable.

His longer series can be good... but at many times that also falls into things that are either less believable or just plain odd... Such as the Confederacy in his best known storyline deciding to emancipate the slaves 20 years after the American Civil War because they're afraid of the north. The South didn't show that sort of fear in 1861 when the American Civil War started in history, and in the scenario the Confederates win the war in 1862, which would mean that the South would not have suffered as much as they did in history. In this, I doubt that the Confederacy would have really made that decision... And in "The War that Came Early" the sudden switch from anti-Nazi to pro-Nazi by Britain and France without a major coup that topples their democratic governments makes little real sense and comes as nothing more than a plot device. So in this... while the storytelling itself can be good, that doesn't fully mean that the scenario is super believable.

And then there are some that are just out of this world. He has one series in which Martians invade in the 1930s (essentially what if "War of the Worlds" was real) and one in which a time-travelling white nationalist from South Africa brings AK-47s to the Confederacy. Again... the writing may be of good quality, but there is nothing believable about the scenario.
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Old September 8th, 2017, 10:00 AM   #4

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I enjoyed reading Turtledove, but after reading twenty or so of his books, I became bored with his efforts. There was a sameness to the stories; in fact one of the series seemed to be an almost exact rewrite of a prior series with just the names changed.

He deserves a lot of credit for being prolific, you don't have to spend years waiting between books, unlike many other SF/Fantasy authors (I will not mention the name George RR Martin).
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